Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh, August 31 * * *

The last day of the Edge Festival brought a sold out crowd to the Cabaret Voltaire for Jeffrey Lewis and his intermittent backing band the Junkyard. Part of New York’s so-called ‘anti-folk” scene, the diminutive singer/songwriter showcased his quirky blend of lo-fi indie-folk during the course of an entertaining hour in the basement venue.
There was an endearingly shambolic air to his performance tonight. No doubt heightened by Lewis’ decision to forgo a soundcheck, it served to embellish rather than impede songs already skewed by a somewhat ragged edge.
As well as being a musician, Lewis is also an established cartoonist. On The Story Of The Mayflower and A Low Budget Detective Flick he married the two mediums, singing his quirky comedic lyrics while flipping through pages of illustrations. Both certainly provoked chuckles from the crowd but second time around it did feel slightly earnest. As did the gentler more folk-inflected tracks that interspersed tonight’s set.
However where Lewis did excel was on the more upbeat full band numbers. Garage rocker Slogans, Posters and Good Old Pig Gone To Avalon bustled with chaotic energy and urgency but overall it was the whimsical Mosquito Mass Murderer that truly stood out. Fusing rap and beatnik-isms it proved a delightfully quirky three minutes.

Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh, July 24 * * *

The signs weren’t promising tonight and that was before Glint even ventured out of their dressing room. A lack of interest in tonight’s show meant the New Yorkers’ first performance in Scotland became a free gig, but even instigating an open door policy failed to attract much of a crowd. Those that did venture into the basement venue witnessed a well-honed display but one which overall failed to leave any lasting impression.
A tendency to stretch songs to breaking point with repetitive protracted endings meant the urgency of tracks like Kernel Panic and Hold Still was diluted by the four-piece’s epic intentions.
It wasn’t just the band’s synth-infused indie-rock music which seemed over-egged at times. Frontman Jase Blankfort’s roots in theatre were all too evident throughout. His pleading hand gestures and tortured soul histrionics were such that, during Friends and Man Vs Man you half expected him to produce a skull and launch into a soliloquy. However it was the unremarkable nature of much of the set that ensured polite rather than enthusiastic applause trickled from the crowd.

Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh, April 17 * * * *

New Yorkers The Virgins have the kind of back-story that PRs and certain music journalists love. Fronted by creative driving force and founding member Donald Cumming, a one-time male model who at the age of 16 was already well established on Manhattan’s cooler than cool club scene, the band was barely a band when Atlantic Records came knocking. Soon after, and with the US press on the lookout for a neat media-friendly label, The Virgins found themselves daubed the ‘new Strokes’.
Whether such an accolade will help or hinder the band remains to be seen, tonight they certainly didn’t have any problems making their first Scottish headlining appearance a success with what was an easy-on-the-ear set of funk-infused garage rock.
Undoubtedly there were shades of The Strokes on Radio Christiane but beyond that other influences took over – The Stones on the rockier One Week Of Danger and Blondie on Hey Hey Girls being the most notable.
Carrying the band through the less engaging tracks was Cumming’s natural delivery and the understated cool of his presence. Effortless yet passionate his distinctive vocal and seemingly heartfelt utterances bore out his contention that “we’re all friends here”, even if it was for only 45 minutes.

Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh, March 1 * * *

Tonight was a night full of contradictions, at the centre of which was modest Glaswegian Tommy Reilly. The merch stand, with signed posters at £3 a pop, was the first indicator that the major label backing Reilly won on Channel 4’s Unsigned Act is starting to make its influence felt. Anyone for a quick cash-in?
However the biggest contradiction of the night was between Reilly – alone on stage, battered acoustic guitar in hand laying his soul bare – and a very vocal support, many of whom seemed more intent on randomly shouting at or chatting about tonight’s headliner than actually listening to his music.
It was a distraction that made engaging with the nervous singer nigh on impossible, but even with the surrounding circus there were still moments when Reilly’s skiffle-fied folk-pop songs hit the mark. Tell Me So proved his best composition, its frenetic guitar and anguished vocals driving the song on to its sudden conclusion.
Somewhat predictably debut single Gimme A Call provoked the biggest round of “Tommy” shouts and allowed the crowd a chance to sing their hearts out, but with the song that effectively launched his career already sounding somewhat jaded you have to wonder if Reilly’s popularity will spread or if he’ll remain a Scottish phenomenon.

Cabaret Voltaire, Glasgow, February 22 * * * *

We Were Promised Jetpacks are the latest Scottish band to sign with Fat Cat Records. Joining fellow Scots The Twilight Sad and Frightened Rabbit on the label’s roster, the Glasgow-based quartet owe a great deal to their Rabbit friends, without whom they’d probably still be unsigned.
Tonight they may have been second on the bill to The Spinto Band but there’s no doubt the Jetpacks were the main attraction at the Cabaret Voltaire such was the scramble to find a spot from which to view the stage.
Like their label mates, WWPJ’s music resonates with honesty and passion, a fact not lost on a packed crowd only too happy to treat the four-piece like conquering heroes – no mean achievement given they’ve yet to release their debut album.
Creative arrangements and a telling knack for conjuring up strong melodies capable of catching listeners unawares stood the four-piece in good stead throughout with songs like opener Keeping Warm, Moving Clocks Run Slow and Ships With Holes Will Sink showing a real depth in songwriting.
A straightforward no thrills approach, and music which obviously comes from the heart, meant they easily won over the crowd and should ensure their next appearance in the capital is upgraded to a bigger venue.